Field Meeting: Pondhead Inclosure - 24 June


Pondhead Inclosure is designated as an SSSI and is like no other area of woodland in the New Forest. It has not been grazed by ponies or cattle for several centuries, resulting in a rich variety of flora, butterflies and birds found in few other places locally.  

Pondhead was famous amongst Victorian collectors for its profusion of butterflies, but sadly this also led to their decline with specialist dealers set up in Lyndhurst high street to cater for the demand.  Today, as a result of ongoing restoration work, Pondhead Inclosure contains the largest area of hazel coppicing on the Crown land of the New Forest.  This and the reinstatement and creation of other suitable habitats within the inclosure are helping address the general decline in UK butterfly numbers (1, 2).

During a very dry spell in July 2018 a large number of butterflies were seen here when Richard Coomber and Adrian Butterworth led a field meeting and in this week last year the same area held White Admiral and Pearl-bordered Fritillary as well as large numbers of bees, hoverflies and hornets.  Evidently, past performance may not be indicative of future results!  

Common Cow-wheat     RS

On a still, overcast day, 17 members and leader started the short walk at the entrance to Beechen Lane. There was a notable absence of butterflies but our botanical experts were able to identify numerous rushes, sedge, grasses and other plant species and we spent 45 minutes walking up the lane to the gate into the inclosure.  Species identified included Ragged Robin, Dog Rose, Cuckoo Flower, Foxglove, Heath Speedwell, Bog Pimpernel, Oval and Star Sedge, Marsh Bedstraw, Lesser Spearwort, Creeping Forget-me-not, Tormentil, Velvet Bent, Crested Dogstail, Toad Rush, Bulbous Rush, and Common Cow-wheat. The latter is a hemi-parasitic plant that enjoys a symbiotic relationship with Wood Ants, which assist in seed dispersal (3). 

Wolf's Milk slime mould   RS

The pink fruiting bodies of a slime mould were found on some decaying wood and identified as Wolf's Milk - Lycogala terrestre.  A birch polypore was also found nearby in the damp environment. 

Meadow Brown and Red Admiral butterfly made brief appearances and a Stock Dove perched in a dead tree opposite the gate.

Entering Pondhead Inclosure we found more Cow-wheat along with Greater Stitchwort, Pendulous Sedge and Greater Birdsfoot Trefoil, not yet in flower.  

A couple of Golden Ringed Dragonfly patrolled the tops of a large patch of bramble and paused briefly for photographs.  A Pill Woodlouse on the path rolled itself into a tight ball and was gently moved to safety!  Along the margins, Wood Sedge and Remote Sedge were found, together with Silverweed.


Hedge Woundwort     RC

As we stopped at the crossroads for a break. more species of plants were found: Marsh Ragwort, Hedge Woundwort, Zigzag Clover, Herb Robert and Wood Avens and several Lesser Burdock, heavily infested with blackfly.  

A hoverfly, identified as Xylota sylvarum, a species associated with old woodland, was  seen (4).


Black-headed Cardinal      RC
Black-and-yellow Longhorn    RC

More insect life amongst the foliage included a Black-headed Cardinal beetle, a Black-and-yellow Longhorn beetle, and a male Common Scorpion fly - Panorpa communis - the claspers at the end of its tail resemble a scorpion tail but are used for mating purposes.

Common Scorpion fly     RS

Tutsan, Yellow Pimpernel and Wood Speedwell were seen beside the path as we moved on and a Jay paused briefly.  Turning back into the woods we returned towards our cars along part of the circular walk.  Blackcap and Song Thrush sang in the trees and a dead, but seemingly undamaged shrew, was found lying on the path.  Lady Fern, Slender St John’s Wort and Germander Speedwell grew in the margin.

Despite the lack of butterflies, and thanks to the collective expertise of the members, we were still able to identify a substantial number of plants and insects.  Hopefully more sunshine and warm weather will bring the blackberry into full flower and a return visit in a couple of weeks will be more rewarding.  RS

Photographs: © Richard Comber and Richard Smith


 References

 1/ A detailed history of Pondhead by Derek Tippetts can be found here:

https://pondheadconservation.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/PONDHEAD-History-10.19-revision.pdf

 2/ Details of the work done by the Pondhead conservation trust and several detailed maps can be found and downloaded here:

https://pondheadconservation.org

3/ Common Cow-wheat: 

https://www.wildlifetrusts.org/wildlife-explorer/wildflowers/common-cow-wheat

4/ Xylota Sylvarum:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xylota_sylvarum

 

See also:  Tippetts (2019) A history of Pondhead inclosure & adjoining area


Field Meeting: Pondhead Inclosure - 24 June

Our next members' field meeting will take place on Thursday 24 June, with a focus on butterflies.  We will meet at 10am at the Clayhill gate entrance to Beechen Lane (SU303071). Parking is limited but possible by the gate and in the approach road to the track.

Some rides have long grass so you may wish to take precautions to avoid ticks.

It will, of course, also be an opportunity to view some of the improvements we learned about during our October 2020 talk by a representative from the Pondhead Conservation Trust.

Several maps of Pondhead Inclosure can be viewed or downloaded here:

https://pondheadconservation.org/volunteer-area/pondhead-maps/

Wool-carder Bee (Anthidium manicatum)

I was lucky enough to see these bees in our garden a couple of days ago and was intrigued as to what they were.


The Wool-carder is a bee of the southern part of Britain, which nests in aerial cavities that other insects have created.  The name comes from the female’s method of collecting nesting materials.  She ‘cards’ fibres from plant stems (reminiscent of carding wool to separate the fibres).













These solitary bees have a single generation and may be seen flying from June to August.  The sexes are similar, though the males are larger and fiercely protect their territory.  They are easy to identify by the yellow markings along their abdomen and on their legs and faces.  They don’t have a sting as such but the male has sharp spines on its rear-end where the sting would be.

They are great pollinators favouring a number of plants with tubular flowers (such as the Mint family) or those with restricted access (such as the vetches and toadflaxes).

CR

All photos © Chris Robinson

Snakes in the Heather Celebration Event - 22 June

In March 2019, Lymington Naturalists welcomed a speaker from the Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Trust who told us about their ‘Snakes in the Heather’ project. This was followed by a very successful Field Meeting to view the project in action. 

ARC are now running a Snakes in the Heather celebration event which will taking place at 6pm on Tuesday 22nd June via Zoom and they are extending an invitation to register as follows:

"We would be delighted if you would join us to hear all about Amphibian and Reptile Conservation’s flagship project, Snakes in the Heather, which is to conserve the UK's rarest reptile – the smooth snake, and the internationally important heathland habitat on which it depends. We will showcase the progress of the project to date, celebrate the work of our amazing volunteers, share some of our plans for the future and provide an opportunity for you to ask questions.
 
This is a free event run by the Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Trust via Zoom – view the event agenda and register for your place below. You will  receive a joining link a week before the event."

More information and registration 

Walk Report: Keyhaven Marshes - 10 June

On an overcast morning 16 Lymnats’ members assembled at the Keyhaven end of the Keyhaven/Lymington nature reserve. The partial solar eclipse was intermittently visible, but you could feel the sea mist in the air.

There were a few small birds flitting about, mostly Linnets but also Meadow pipits and Skylarks. There was no sign of the usual Peregrines, which was not a good omen! There were very few birds on Keyhaven Lagoon, but things looked up when we got to Fishtail.

Avocet  

A pair of Avocets were displaying (and mating) at one end on the lagoon, with more on the island where they have been nesting. Three chicks were being watched by their parents and another adult was sitting on eggs.

Other waders present were Dunlin, Black-tailed godwits, Oystercatchers, Lapwings and a Little ringed plover. There were also more Linnets (still collecting nesting materials) and a pair of Stonechats.


Reed Warbler

We could hear Reed warblers all along the path but saw only one.

Eider


Between Butts and the Jetty (sewage outlet!) there were several Gadwall, a Raven being pursued by a Carrion crow and Eider duck on the sea (one male in moult quite close in).  Three species of Tern did a fly past (Common, Little and Sandwich).



Bee Orchid

We turned down the path towards Lower Pennington Lane and saw Whitethroat, Greenfinch, Goldfinch and heard a Cetti’s warbler. Of botanical interest were Bee orchids, Cut-leaved cranesbill and Sand spurrey (none of which I had ever noticed before!).

Greylag Goose

On Efford lake there were many Great Black-backed and Herring gulls, two Egyptian geese, one Swallow and one Swift. A Marsh harrier flew over.

We eventually saw about 50 species, and finally heard a Cuckoo when we got back to the car park.   CR

Species List: Raven, Carrion crow, Magpie, Marsh harrier, Kestrel, Eider, Shellduck, Mallard, Gadwall, Shoveller, Dunlin, Black-tailed godwit, Redshank, Oystercatcher, Lapwing, Little ringed plover, Avocet, Canada goose, Egyptian goose, Grey-lag goose, Reed warbler, Cetti’s warbler, Reed bunting, Whitethroat, Goldfinch, Greenfinch, Linnet, Great crested grebe, Coot, Moorhen, Swallow, Swift, Wood pigeon, Great black-backed gull, Lesser black-backed gull, Herring gull, Black-headed gull, Common tern, Sandwich tern, Little tern, Little egret, Mute swan, Robin, Blackbird, Song thrush, Starling, Skylark, Meadow pipit, Stonechat, Cuckoo.

Any I have missed is down to my failing faculties!

All photos: © C Robinson

Field Meeting: Keyhaven Marshes - 10 June

Our next field meeting will take place on Thursday 10 June, with a focus on birds.  We will meet at 10am at Keyhaven Harbour between the bridge and the entrance to the reserve.